Middle East

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th November 1991.

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Photo of Mr Ronald Brown Mr Ronald Brown , Edinburgh Leith 12:00 am, 20th November 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which middle east countries have no diplomatic links with Britain; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

We do not have diplomatic relations with the Republic of Iraq or with Libya.

Photo of Mr Ronald Brown Mr Ronald Brown , Edinburgh Leith

Obviously, both countries deserve to be recognised. Having said that, is not it clear that there can be no peace in the middle east until the Palestinian question is resolved? Will the Secretary of State set an example to his Israeli friends and recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation as a Government in exile? Will he also allow it to set up an embassy in London? These questions are important.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The answer is no to both halves of the hon. Gentleman's question. We have not changed the basis on which we keep in touch with Palestinians.

Photo of Mr Michael Marshall Mr Michael Marshall , Arundel

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a place for parliamentary contacts where we have no diplomatic relations? Does not the record in recent years show that such contacts can facilitate the resumption of diplomatic relations, especially if tackled on an all-party basis by Members of this House?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I agree with that in particular cases, but perhaps not in all cases. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his recent success in the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Under his leadership there can be new opportunities for that organisation.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale

In view of the constructive contribution which the Palestinian delegation, among others, made to the Madrid peace talks, does the Foreign Secretary believe that it is any longer sensible for Ministers to continue to refuse even to talk to the PLO?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The right hon. Gentleman is confusing two matters. It is certainly important for us to keep in touch with the Palestinians, which is why I answered the original supplementary question carefully. We keep in touch. I saw Mr. Faisal Husseini earlier in the year and the Minister of State, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), has met other Palestinians. I have already answered the question about contacts with the PLO.

Photo of Mr Robert Rhodes James Mr Robert Rhodes James , Cambridge

Although there is strong and real appreciation in the middle east of the British involvement in the Madrid peace process—not least among the Palestinians, as well as the Israelis—will my right hon. Friend confirm that there are no ministerial contacts with the PLO?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

That is the position. The Palestinian part of the peace process is extremely important. By general agreement, the Palestinian component of the joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation handled itself extremely well—indeed, with distinction—at the Madrid conference. There is a balance within the Palestinian group. We want to act carefully in order not to disturb that balance. It is important for us to keep in touch with the Palestinians. We shall continue to do so on the basis that I have described.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Will the right hon. Gentleman join me once again in congratulating Mr. James Baker on the notable and indispensable part that he played in bringing about the Madrid conference? Will he pay tribute to all who participated in that conference, including the Palestinian representatives? Does he agree that if the Israeli authorities prosecuted Hannan Ashrawi, it would be an act of folly which would be destructive in further stages of the middle east peace process?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman's first remark. I have encouraged Secretary Baker to continue to give his personal impact to those negotiations because that is essential, and he is clearly willing to do so. As I said, the Palestinian delegation distinguished themselves in Madrid. I could see no advantage, and considerable disadvantage, if Hannan Ashrawi were to be prosecuted in the way that the right hon. Gentleman described.